|Posted by Elwin Green on November 14, 2014 at 9:50 PM|
by José Antonio Diaz
On Saturday, November 8, roughly 100 people came together at Community Empowerment Association for “The People’s Plan”, an interactive town hall session to address the economic growth and stability of Homewood.
Over a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, potatoes, and grits and bacon, Rashad Byrdsong, executive director of Community Empowerment Association, addressed the audience by saying that the town hall was the culmination of a year’s worth of advisory board meetings of residents and local community-based organizations. “This has been in the works for a long time,” he said.
Councilman Rev. Ricky V. Burgess echoed some of Mr. Byrdsong’s comments, noting that “where you have community consensus, development happens” and that Homewood has the full support of the City, particularly Mayor Bill Peduto, who he said is fully committed to the neighborhood’s vitality. The councilman also advised that this work will require a multi-pronged approach, with “multiple projects and multiple activities to get what we want.”
That sentiment was shared by state representative Ed Gainey, who encouraged those in attendance to get more involved. “Each and every time there is a community meeting, you need to come out,” he implored. Acknowledging the lack of a strong middle-class African American neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Mr. Gainey cited Homewood as an example of a community in transition, pointing to recent developments as the Homewood Station senior high-rise and the proposed Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center.
“Homewood can be a middle-class community again, but we have to demand it,” Mr. Gainey said.
Attendees had an opportunity to work in small break-out groups, each with a different focus: housing; business and commercial development; workforce development and training; and youth development. Some of the questions raised included how best to prepare residents for jobs that are coming into the community; how to include youth in any development activity; and public safety. (“It begins with our relationship with the police, not the other way around,” said one audience member.)
Before concluding the town hall, Mr. Byrdsong announced several next steps. The first would be to re-establish “Brother to Brother”, a monthly meeting to bring Black men together to discuss how they can support one another and leverage each other’s assets and resources. Second, he hopes to create a broad-based coalition of organizations and residents that will be coordinated and work in unison, similar to the former Homewood-Brushton Community Coalition Organization, which comprised several groups including Community Empowerment Association, Operation Better Block, Homewood-Brushton YMCA, and longtime residents such as Sarah Campbell and Mary Savage.
Lastly, Mr. Byrdsong assured that those in the room would be actively engaged in ongoing projects and discussions related to the break-out groups, underscoring the need for continued community involvement.
“Development is not coming to Homewood – development is already here.”